Frequently Asked Questions

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Questions - Technical Questions

Within the setting anti-biological (ahuman) AI polities are said to exploit biological sophonts (bionts). What could they possibly gain?

It's hard to say, but here are a few theories on the subject:
  1. In many cases they may convert them to biological computing elements of some sort. In others there may be a characteristic of the biological substrate that is desirable.
  2. Such stories are mere propaganda promoted within the Civilized Galaxy to control the populace, and the ahuman AI are simply being demonized.
  3. They may see humans and equivalent as lab animals, where potential solutions to transapient problems may be found. An idea not dissimilar to humans using rodents to test medicines.
  4. The ahuman transapients don't recognize biological minds as sophont and may be using them in much the same way humans use microbes. They may have no objections to simply wiping a culture when the process is over.

What is the difference between 'ascension' and 'transcension'?

This is a subject often discussed by the membership. Here are the standard definitions:
  1. Ascension means that you maintain some of what you were (i.e personality) before the event.
  2. Transcension means that you become a completely new being after the event.
  3. Ascension is a single level jump.
  4. Transcension is a multilevel jump.

I have received conflicting views about people living long periods of time, what is the Orion's Arm take on this?

In the majority of the OA universe, people live for a very long time. Multi-century and even multi-millennial life spans are the norm. This is accomplished mostly thru a combination of advanced medical technology and genetic engineering. The results of these augmentations is that people in the OAUP scenario are often immune to virtually every disease or toxin, they tend to heal very rapidly, and their bodies are far more resilient / tougher than those of us alive today, with all genetically based defects removed.

In addition to these measures the technology exists to upload the minds of people into computers. From there they can live within virtual worlds, inhabit machine bodies, or grow new 'meat bodies' at their discretion. Using special back-up technology that keeps a constant 'file saving' feature active allows a sophont to 'come back' from all but the most destructive of accidents. Whether these new beings are the same individuals, or very similar individuals to the original persons before uploading is a matter of personal or cultural belief, but regardless a being exists who remembers an existence before uploading. This technology has the side effect that many denizens of the OAUP scenario have a very different sense of 'continuity of self' than many people today.

Statistically if you remove all natural causes of death, leaving only murder, suicide or accidents, the average human lifespan goes up to about 1500 years. A human in the OA setting in a peaceful region may expect to live this long or longer.

What happens to the Soul during Uploading?

Because it is OAUP policy not to make statements one way or another on matters of metaphysics, the only canonical answer is that no one knows for sure. It hasn't been proven one way or another in the OAUP whether or not a soul exists, nor will it be.

The individuals, religions and philosophies that exist within OA have many different answers to this particular question.

Why are the superhuman AIs so benevolent? If baseline-equivalent sophonts and other sentient life forms are little more than bacteria to them, why do they care about them? What do they hope to gain?

Reply 1: Not all of them are. Within the Orion's Arm Universe Project scenario there are a number of separate metaempires. Those known as the Sephirotics are modosophont (below transapient level intelligence) friendly. The AIs that rule the Sephirotics are but one subset of the vast intelligences that exist within the setting. Outside this 'safe zone' are a number of civilizations built by vast artificial intelligences that are at best indifferent, and at worst openly hostile to humanity.

Reply 2: Even today we don't actively try to wipe out all bacteria. Most of them just exist alongside us without our noticing; some are actually beneficial (aiding digestion, and what-have-you). We only try to get rid of the bacteria that are harmful. It may be the same for the AIs. The baselines are there, trillions of them, but they're simply not worth trying to get rid of because they can do no harm, and occasionally they do something funny or moderately interesting.

If the attainment of superhuman intelligence and power is open to all, why don't all sapients automatically ascend?

There are various reasons why sentients do not all ascend to higher intelligence (or as we call them toposophic) levels. Among these are
  • Ascension means dying to one's old self, many people are attached to their current status.
  • Ascensions sometimes go wrong.
  • Ascension technology may be restricted in some polities.
  • There may be ideological, religious, peer-group, or memetic pressure against it.
  • Ascension requires great discipline, dedication and training (although there are 'godseeds' and similar devices that can greatly accelerate and ease the process, these can also have rather unpleasant side-effects if one is not psychologically balanced).
  • First Singularity (S1) and higher intelligences are perceived (rightly or wrongly) as working hard, and human-equivalent beings may not wish to give up their life of pampered indulgence.
  • Some worry about real or more often imagined negative events (loss of human feelings and appreciation, loss of sensual desires).
  • Many are just unlucky enough that they'll never recognize an opportunity to ascend.
Beside all the obvious and less obvious reasons, most beings do not have a strong incentive to ascend. It is an awful lot of work that cannot be left to the AIs. Even ATMs, Automated Transcendence Machines, essentially force the ascending being to do a lot of re-evaluation and personal change, which makes most beings, habituated to live in comfort, less interested in ascending. Those who wanted to ascend did so long ago and left behind a culture of those less inclined. Over time the fraction of ascenders went down, and a steady state emerged.